A Magic Word That Can Defuse the Most Irate Customer

Attention Apple MobileMe subscribers: Your service is getting shut down on June 30, so you’d better make the transition to iCloud right away.

Oh, you never heard of MobileMe? Or, if you had, you never saw the value in paying for Apple’s early cloud, syncing and Web hosting service? Or, you were a MobileMe member, but you made the transition to iCloud months ago? Well, then, you never had to share in the experience of a special circle of hell I got caught up in the other day.

To run iCloud, you need the Lion operating system. If you need to update your operating system to Lion, you have to already be using the previous OS, Snow Leopard.

I still had the Leopard operating system, one step down from Snow Leopard. Apple says you need to buy Snow Leopard first, and then buy Lion, if you’re running Leopard—which seems nuts. I did some research and found that Apple was offering MobileMe subscribers like myself a free copy of Snow Leopard. They had sent out an email to MobileMe subscribers in April announcing this offer.

I never got that email.

I did get an email showing me how to move my account from MobileMe to iCloud, which I clicked through and followed. So I now had an iCloud account, even though I couldn’t really run iCloud properly.

I tried linking through to the page where MobileMe subscribers can order a free copy of Snow Leopard, but I kept getting pushed to an iCloud page.

This all led to three conversations with Apple people on the phone, and then to a two-hour hold music concerto. Finally I hung up in bitterness and frustration. Then I tried Apple’s online Express Lane and was instantly connected to a live chat with an Apple representative. We went back and forth for a while, and she explained to me that once I moved my account to iCloud, I was no longer a MobileMe subscriber and was unable to access the page where I could order my free disk. She said I could try calling AppleCare again and plead my case, which I just didn’t have the heart to do.

“Believe me if there was more I could do I would but since you have moved the account and can no longer log into me.com you are at a standstill,” she wrote.

Standstill—that word captured it perfectly. That word was like a balm, like a cool lemonade on a muggy day. That note of empathy was all I needed. Within minutes I plunked down the bucks online and bought the stupid disk.

That’s the key ingredient in all customer service, in all communications, actually—empathy. It’s a beautiful word on which to base a business model—and a way of life.

—Steve Goldstein

Follow Steve Goldstein: @SGoldsteinAI